Friday, Aug 20–County Libraries Break Circulation Mark

BERLIN – Despite of, or
perhaps more accurately because of, a continued sluggish economy, one local
recession success story has been the Worcester County Public Library system,
which set an all-time record this year and topped the half-million mark for the
circulation of materials for the second straight year.

Worcester County Library
officials recently concluded a review of the system’s circulation figures for
the fiscal year that ended June 30, which confirmed a recent trend of residents
and visitors turning to the system’s free offerings in the face of a struggling
economy. The review found library customers checked out 543,522 books, DVDs,
CDs, audio books and other library items during the last fiscal year, topping
the half-million mark for the second year in a row.

The most recent figures
reflect an upward trend that has been evident for the last several years. After
a decided downturn in the number of visitors and the associated decline in the
volume of materials circulated, the county library system has seen its numbers
increase in each of the last six years. This year’s increase over the previous
year was a modest 2.4 percent, but the numbers increased by 25 percent in the
previous fiscal year.

Library Director Mark
Thomas said this week the continued upward spike is likely a reflection of the
continued recession. With the type and volume of materials offered at the
county’s five municipal branches, many people are returning to the library to
meet their literary, research, music and movie needs rather then forking over
the cash to purchase the materials.

“Clearly, the tough
economy has led many people to discover, or rediscover, the services and the
great bargains that public libraries offer,” said Thomas. “We were eager to
keep the new customers who found us when the economic downturn hit and it
appears that we have been successful. Now, our challenge is continue to meet
their needs and to develop new ways to serve both recent and longstanding

Like just about every
other county department, the public library system is facing continued cuts in
funding as the recession drags on. The county’s libraries have faced cuts in
each of the last two budget cycles including $229,000 in this year alone. Of
course, that likely means there is less money to buy new books, DVDs and other
items and the waiting lists might be longer.

“This is a challenging
year for everyone, but we are committed to keeping our level of customer
service at the highest level possible,” said Thomas. “We may have slightly
fewer items to offer and we may present fewer programs, but we are getting
great support from our Friends of the Library groups and the Worcester County
Library Foundation.”